Hi, I’m a beginner student of Chinese and have been studying Chinese on and off for the past year. I’ve found that there are many different ways of saying the days of the week like xingqiyi or libaiyi and there’s also ri. Which one should I use and what is the difference between them? Thanks, Jeff.
Thank you for writing to us. You are right there are a couple of different ways of saying the days of the ween and it can be a little bit confusing especially because they are all very common.
The official, standard term for the word “week” in Mandarin Chinese is 星期 (XīngQī). You can never go wrong with using Xingqi as it is the standard form and, as you might already know, forming the days of the week is rather easy. You just have to add the number of the day following the word for the “week”. In China, the week starts with Monday, therefore:
- 星期一 XīngQī Yī Monday
- 星期二 XīngQī’Èr Tuesday
- 星期三 XīngQīSān Wednesday
- 星期四 XīngQīSì Thursday
- 星期五 XīngQīWǔ Friday
- 星期六 XīngQīLiù Saturday
The exception to this rule is Sunday – you will find that the Sunday is always an exception. There are two words for Sunday using just Xingqi: 星期天 XīngQīTiān and 星期日XīngQīRì . Of the two, Xingqiri is slightly more formal, but otherwise there is little difference in usage between the two.
The second way is by using the word 礼拜 LǐBài which literally means “to worship”. This version is particularly common in everyday, spoken Chinese and in Taiwan. In this case, the seven days are as follows:
- 礼拜一 LǐBǎiYī Monday
- 礼拜二 LǐBāi’Èr Tuesday
- 礼拜三 LǐBāiSān Wednesday
- 礼拜四 LǐBǎiSì Thursday
- 礼拜五 LǐBǎiWǔ Friday
- 礼拜六 LǐBǎiLiù Saturday
- 礼拜天 or 礼拜日 LǐBǎiTiān or LǐBǎiRì Sunday
The last one is 周 Zhōu which means “cycle”. You can find it in the word for “weekend” which in Chinese is 周末 ZhōuMò or “end of cycle”. Zhou is a slightly more formal term which is becoming more and more popular in everyday speak. Often times you can find Zhou written in formal statements and announcement.
- 周一 ZhōuYī Monday
- 周二 Zhōu’Èr Tuesday
- 周三 ZhōuSān Wednesday
- 周四 ZhōuSì Thursday
- 周五 ZhōuWǔ Friday
- 周六 ZhōuLiù Saturday
- 周日 ZhōuRì Sunday
Overall, there are three ways of saying the day of the week, except for Sunday which has five different names.
Like we’ve already mentioned, all three of them are very common and can be even used by the same speaker. Xingqi is the standard version and as a learner of Chinese you’re most probably already acquainted with this one. Zhou is formal sounding and Libai is strictly used in a conversational context and is especially common in the Chinese south and Taiwan.
I hope that helps:)
Let us know if you have any more questions.